Using Locals in Enforcement, Some MPA Managers See Improved Compliance as a Result

MPA News

Where there is little or no community support for a marine protected area, compliance with MPA rules may be low and enforcement difficult. This point often underscores the adoption of community-based processes in planning protected areas. However, even with strong local involvement in planning, some level of non-compliance will likely persist, particularly at sites with no regular enforcement presence.

Seeking a way to enforce rules while adhering to the concept of community "ownership" of an MPA, some managers have instituted systems of using locals as enforcement officials. These local enforcement patrols - sometimes done in conjunction with professional rangers, sometimes not - have brought a range of benefits to MPAs, as well as some challenges. This month, MPA News examines three cases of local enforcement patrols and how the managers view their results.

Bunaken National Park: Benefits of joint patrols

In the late 1990s, blast and cyanide fishing were rampant in the 890-km2 Bunaken National Park, located in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Funding shortfalls from the national government had hamstrung the park's enforcement efforts, severely limiting the patrols performed by rangers. In 2001 in a bid to increase the level of enforcement, the newly established Bunaken National Park Management Advisory Board - consisting of village representatives and other stakeholders - initiated a joint patrol system, placing community members side-by-side with professional enforcement officers.

That system now features 45 villagers, 16 park rangers (employed by the central government) and 5 water police officers (employed by the North Sulawesi provincial government). The villagers, mainly fishers from islands within the park, work full-time in this role and receive a salary competitive with the earnings of average fishers. Funding for their salaries comes from a park entrance fee charged to visitors. The village patrol members receive ongoing training in enforcement techniques and other aspects of park management, but do not have the authority to make arrests or carry weapons. A ranger or water police officer is present on every patrol for arrest authority.

The effect of this system has been dramatic, says Mark Erdmann, marine protected areas advisor for the park. "The incidence of blast and cyanide fishing within the park decreased dramatically in 2001-2002, with many villagers in the southern section of the park claiming that blast fishing has nearly ceased altogether," says Erdmann. Collection of live coral for house foundations has also dropped off significantly. And the patrols have dismantled floating cages for temporarily holding grouper and Napoleon wrasse for the live reef food fish trade - illegal but once common throughout the park. "Village patrol members have an intimate knowledge of local reefs and the people exploiting them, both sustainably and in a destructive manner," he says. "This allows them to target the activities and user groups that cause the most damage to the reefs."

The benefits of the joint patrol system go beyond just enforcement, Erdmann says. The patrols provide alternative employment for fishers who would otherwise depend on reef resources. In addition, he says, the village patrol teams have effectively "socialized" the conservation and sustainable use goals of the park within their villages, explaining the reasons for protection and how everyone can benefit from it. "Village patrol team members 'socialize' the park even during their free time when interacting with other villagers on a social basis," he says.

The joint patrol system has not been without challenges. The village patrol members for the northern half of the park, for example, were all selected from just one island, which has resulted in accusations of bias from villagers on other islands in that region. "There is a strong feeling among villagers from other islands that when they put in a request for patrol help via the village VHF radio network, the village patrol members (all from Bunaken Island) are often apt to ignore the call or feign technical difficulties," says Erdmann. The management advisory board is set to change the northern patrol system soon to a more representative approach, similar to the existing southern patrol.

Erdmann says that although broad communication of park rules has resulted in increased compliance, the economic incentive to illegally extract resources in the park only increases over time, necessitating a continuously vigilant patrol system. The need for such vigilance was made apparent earlier this year: a temporary work strike by village patrol members resulted in a spike in blasting and cyanide activities in the park within two weeks.

Portland Bight Protected Area: Contending with a culture of "system-beating"

In Jamaica, according to Peter Espeut of the Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation, history has played a role in determining societal compliance with regulation in general. After slavery was outlawed in 1834, upper-class planters continued to control the formal economy and police into the 1900s, resulting in decades of civil unrest. "Distrust of the police, as well as a desire to beat a system perceived as unjust, are almost written into the genetic code of working-class Jamaicans," says Espeut. "In this context, there is almost a 'culture of system-beating' in Jamaica."

C-CAM bears management responsibility for the 1876-km2 Portland Bight Protected Area under an arrangement in which the Jamaican government delegates authority for protected areas to qualified NGOs (MPA News 4:4). For C-CAM to manage Portland Bight effectively, it has had to confront the culture of system-beating, says Espeut. "Success in defeating that culture is not to be measured by the absence of law-breaking, but by the absence of community support for law-breaking," he says. To achieve that, C-CAM has involved community fishers in setting fisheries regulations for the protected area, which now await formal government approval. C-CAM has also established a system of local enforcement agents.

"Even when the local community 'owns' the regulations, some may still resent outsiders coming in and arresting their relatives and friends for non-compliance," says Espeut. "What better way is there to cement the new culture of compliance and natural resource management than to empower community leaders as enforcement officers?" Some 50 fishers have been appointed Honorary Game Wardens and Fishery Inspectors by Jamaica's head of state, conveying powers to arrest, search without warrant, and impound vessels when evidence is found. C-CAM provides three days of training annually to each warden and inspector on all aspects of the work. The enforcement agents are all volunteers.

Espeut says concerns about the local enforcement system - including that wardens and inspectors would excuse their friends and relatives and harass their enemies, or take bribes - have not come to pass. In fact, the reverse has been found: wardens and inspectors advise their relatives and friends not to embarrass them by committing an offense, as they would be forced to personally arrest them to prove they are not corrupt, says Espeut. The effect of the enforcement system on illegal activity has been evident: illegally caught lobsters, for example, are no longer openly exposed for sale during closed seasons.

Notably, just one case of an offense has gone to trial. This is partly due to the emphasis C-CAM places on warning offenders rather than taking them to court. Also, regulations governing the protected area do not adequately cover some of the most destructive activities affecting Portland Bight - like fishing with dynamite - that will be addressed in the upcoming fisheries regulations for the protected area.

Once the fisheries regulations are approved by the national environment minister, enforcement could become a higher-stakes task. "It is not our intention that these community volunteers should risk life and limb - and it might come to that with the dynamiters - even in defense of their economic well-being," says Espeut. "C-CAM's intention is that when the fisheries regulations are in place, we will hire full-time, paid ranger corps, who under the Natural Resources Conservation Act will have special police powers." The wardens and inspectors would continue to serve, but more as the "eyes and ears" of the ranger corps, he says.

Tanga region, Tanzania: Guarding against the use of excessive force

The Tanga region of Tanzania, in eastern Africa, extends southward along the Indian Ocean from the country's border with Kenya. Characterized by coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, estuaries, and bays, Tanga's coastline has experienced lower fish catches and deteriorating reef health since the 1980s, due to widespread use of destructive fishing methods. It is estimated that 12% of the region's reefs have been completely destroyed, with another 64% in poor or moderate condition.

The Tanga Coastal Zone Conservation and Development Program (TCZCDP) was launched in 1994 by IUCN in collaboration with the Tanga region to reverse these trends. Involving three district governments in the region and 47 villages, TCZCDP has worked to end the destructive fishing practices and close certain reefs to serve as source areas for fisheries. (The project is funded by Ireland Aid, with technical assistance from IUCN.)

The project has closed seven reefs to fishing. These closures are part of area management plans, formulated and reviewed in a participatory way by local stakeholders. To ensure compliance, the project has implemented a joint enforcement program, involving local villagers and the Tanzanian Navy.

The nature of the joint enforcement program is indicative of the collaborative project as a whole, ensuring the rights of local communities are protected. "The role of the Navy is to provide the enforcement unit with security in case they are facing aggressive or armed offenders," says Eric Verheij, IUCN's technical advisor to TCZCDP. "The role of the villagers is to ensure that the law enforcers are not using excessive force during operations, which might be counterproductive to our participatory approach." In addition to pursuing illegal fishing practices, the enforcement units also check licenses and permits of fishers. Dynamite fishing has declined significantly since the start of the joint patrols, and local appreciation for the effect of closures on fish populations has increased.

One of the main challenges the project has faced regarding enforcement and compliance, according to Verheij, has been creating an atmosphere where law enforcers - the Navy, carrying out their civil role like "coast guards" in many other countries - can work smoothly with the communities. To this end, technical staffers at the district level have served as bridges between the communities and the Navy, and villages have provided housing for Navy personnel.

For more information:

Mark Erdmann, NRM/EPIQ North Sulawesi, Jl. Santo Joseph No. 39, Manado 95116, Indonesia. Tel: +62 431 842320; Email: erdmann [at] nrm.or.id.

Peter Espeut, Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, P.O. Box 33, Lionel Town, Clarendon, Jamaica. Tel: +1 876 986 3344; E-mail: pespeut [at] infochan.com.

Eric Verheij, TCZCDP, PO Box 5036, Tanga, Tanzania. Tel: +255 53 47464; E-mail: tangacoast [at] kaributanga.com.


BOX: Session on enforcement at ITMEMS2

The above article on the use of locals as enforcement agents was inspired and informed by a session on enforcement at the Second International Tropical Marine Ecosystems Management Symposium (ITMEMS2), held March 2003 in Manila, Philippines. For a summary report of the session, which covered many aspects of MPA enforcement in developed and developing nations, e-mail Mark Erdmann, session co-organizer, at erdmann [at] nrm.or.id.


BOX: Local patrol of a dive site

Involving locals as enforcement agents can be useful in monitoring dive tourists. The 0.15-km2 Gilutongan Marine Sanctuary, fast becoming a major dive destination in the Philippines, employs a local resident as sanctuary manager, supported by a team of local volunteers. The team keeps watch over diving in the sanctuary, including the collection of tickets for entry, while the manager warns dive operators when divers are careless or anchor buoys are not used. Volunteers also work with the local government to conduct a bi-annual monitoring survey of the sanctuary. Enforcement and monitoring are supported through collection of a user fee on divers. For more information: Alan White, Coastal Resources Management Project, 5th Floor, CIFC Towers, North Reclamation Area, Cebu, Philippines. Tel: +63 32 232 1821; E-mail: awhite [at] mozcom.com.


BOX: Locals as enforcement agents in developed nations

The above article provides examples of involving local stakeholders in MPA enforcement in developing nations. In developed countries like the USA and Australia, such direct involvement of local community members is often precluded by insurance concerns and occupational health and safety (OH&S) regulations. Nonetheless, even in developed nations, local stakeholders can play an important, albeit unofficial, role as protectors of MPAs, reporting offenses they have witnessed to authorities. Managers who effectively build community support for an MPA may benefit the most from these unofficial "patrols".

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